Meet Mrs. Sheehan

August 10, 2005

CLARIFICATION

An editorial headline in Wednesday's Sun may have left the impression that Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, had never met President Bush. Mrs. Sheehan met Mr. Bush once - among a group of grieving families last year. At that meeting, she says, he was jovial and disrespectful, did not seem to know her or her son's name, and seemed uninterested in hearing about her son.

MR. PRESIDENT, we know you really enjoy your 1,600-acre spread in Crawford, Texas. We know you're in the middle of a five-week break there, the longest presidential vacation in decades. We know you've intended to ride your bike a good deal and, of course, clear a bit of brush. And doubtless, you'll still be holding lots of meetings.

All that's well and fine, but it sure seems to us that you ought to have the time -- and the common courtesy -- to invite Cindy Sheehan back to your ranch house for a one-on-one chat.

Mrs. Sheehan is the Vacaville, Calif., mother who's been camped by a highway that runs near your place, enduring the Texas summer heat and humidity almost round-the-clock since Saturday.

As you no doubt know, she wants to talk with you because she lost her son, 24-year-old Army Spc. Casey A. Sheehan, in Iraq in April of last year -- a cost of a war that she believes you've never adequately explained to the American people.

She wants to look you in the eye and tell you not to use her son's death to justify continuing this war. And she wants you to look her in the eye and speak truthfully about the war in Iraq.

Mr. President, we know you sent two high-level advisers out to talk with Mrs. Sheehan on Saturday for about 45 minutes. That didn't cut it with her -- and it shouldn't be enough for you.

But as of yesterday, you still hadn't invited her in for a chat.

You know, these things sometimes have a way of steamrolling. An angry mother waiting by a dusty Texas highway to talk to the most powerful man on Earth is a powerful image, one that is gaining the attention of media worldwide. Other military families -- including other mothers of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq -- yesterday were said to be on their way to join Mrs. Sheehan.

At least thirty-eight American soldiers have been killed in Iraq so far this month. The most recent national polls show that a lot more Americans, like Mrs. Sheehan, don't understand why our troops are there -- and are running out of patience with your explanations and "stay the course" determination.

Mr. President, that loss of support should be of great concern to you. You should be willing to address it head-on. A small first step -- but only a first step -- would be to sit down with Mrs. Sheehan and listen to her, really listen.

"I want to hear him say why my son died," Mrs. Sheehan said in a phone interview as she maintained her Crawford vigil yesterday afternoon. "I want him to tell me what's the noble cause worth dying for in Iraq."

Take the time to talk with her.

Have the courtesy.

It's both the smart and right thing to do.

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